Efforts to prevent child abuse never stopApr 21, 2022
Every April, St. Mary’s Medical Center and the Palm Beach Children’s Hospital participate in a Child abuse prevention campaign as part of National Child Abuse Prevention Month. The effort is to protect our most precious citizens: the children. National Child Abuse Prevention Month recognizes the importance of working together to strengthen families to prevent child abuse and neglect in our community.
For the second year in a row, our non-accidental Trauma Team, Area Law Enforcement, Fire Rescue, and the Department of Children and Families (DCF) came together to bring awareness and shed some light on our combined efforts to say “Goodnight to Child Abuse”. On April 14, more than 60 emergency vehicles gathered outside of our building, surrounding the Children’s Hospital, and flashed their lights at the patients and staff, who flashed lights inside the building back to collectively come together to say “goodnight” to this preventable act.
The idea for this event began with the creation of our Non-accidental Trauma Team in 2018, a group that was formed in an effort to better identify and treat pediatric victims of child abuse. The founding members were a pediatric emergency physician, a pediatric trauma physician, and a hospitalist who is fellowship trained in child abuse. The team has grown significantly from there, and we have added members of Palm Beach County DCF and Child Protection Team (CPT), along with other internal staff members and protective agencies. Our Non-accidental Trauma Team uses evidence based standards, and has enacted changes including:
- Easier communication with DCF to escalate issues
- Increased drug testing availability
- Standard protocols to increase reporting
- Review of cases at monthly meetings
- ncreased education through community outreach
The Florida Department of Health defines “Abuse” as any willful act or threatened act that results in any physical, mental, or sexual injury or harm that causes or is likely to cause the child’s physical, mental, or emotional health to be significantly impaired. Abuse of a child includes acts or omissions. Child maltreatment and abuse is one of the greatest social maladies of our time. Tracking statistics helps quantify, if only superficially, the significance of the problem.
The Children’s Advocacy Centers in Florida estimates that around 34,000 children are victims of child abuse each year. Of those, approximately:
- 60% of the victims were female and 40% were male
- 36% of the victims were between the ages of 0 and 6
- 35% of the victims suffered from sexual abuse; 27% from physical abuse; and 17% suffered from neglect
- While children and families are facing unprecedented stress during the pandemic, we know child maltreatment is preventable. As part of our mission to provide a compassionate and understanding environment that reduces anxiety and comforts children, we are proud to be able to shed some light on National Child Abuse Prevention Month in April, but our efforts to advocate for children occur year round.